A recent article by Sean Ludwig at Venture Beat, based on a survey by App Promo laments that 59% of iOS (Apple Platform) developers don’t generate enough revenue from their app efforts to break even. Unfortunately, Mr. Ludwig did not correctly analyze App Promo’s survey results since the 59% of developers includes Android developers as well. Further more, after investigating the App Promo’s survey I found that only 102 developers were queried for their stunning results, again a mix of iPhone, iPad, and Android developers. The questions that made up the survey apparently were multiple choice and were based on general, revenue/download, and marketing areas. While the survey is at best sketchy, App Promo is an app marketing company, which unfortunately appears to have an ulterior motive — marketing apps for iOS developers and Android developers. The below infograhic is a quick look of the App Promo survey (via App Promo).
While there is no doubt that the iTunes App Store of 2012 is nothing like it was back on July 10, 2008, indie developers should not be frightened off by Mr. Ludwig’s incorrect assesment or App Promo’s developer survey. For starters, there is always going to be a viral app success in the iTunes App Store whether it’s due to sheer luck, great app concept, or other intricacies that don’t include marketing budgets made up of thousands of dollars. Besides the viral effect, there are several questions raised by this scary survey. Most developers only need a Mac ($1200) and to be registered as an Apple developer ($99) to create and publish apps in the iTunes App Store. Was this survey a determination of one’s value for their time or investment dollars (you know real cash) used to create an app for the cost metric? I tried to access App Promo’s survey to see the questions, however, the survey is now closed and all 102 results (both iOS and Android) are confidential. While I am not refuting what App Promo states, and actually agree that marketing is necessary for developers, I have seen some very big success from indie developers’ efforts with very little investment other than their time, such as Chad Towns and his iPhone app Doodle Army
Chad published Doodle Army in 01/2010 and since doing so has had approximately 2,000,000+ downloads. Funny thing is that Mr. Towns to date has spent approximately $200 total in marketing this app and that was after the app had been live in the iTunes App Store for one year. Sure he has poured many hours of Â his own time into this app and much of that only after the app realized success. Nonetheless, if Doodle Army had failed he would have been out only the cost of his time and a few hundred bucks. Another early iTunes App Store success is Steve Demeter and his app Trism netting him $250,000 in 2 months time. It is said that Demeter worked on the his app part-time after work, again costing him his time and $99, as I am guessing he already had a Mac. While these success stories are not the norm, there are plenty of developers who have and are making money from their app development. However, app marketing is going to continue to be a huge problem as well as a threat to the indie developer.
The iTunes App Store top 200 paid and free is filling up with large corporations apps who have huge calculated app marketing budgets to keep their apps in the top spots for both the free and paid apps using mobile advertising, banner ads, and their own large app communities. This will continue to increase as the money continues to be spent by app customers, which is not expected to peak anytime soon especially as mobile evolution continues. It does not take a rocket scientist to determine that if the top companies can pay their way to the top 200 paid and free spots, this limits the opportunity for an indie to get their app in a visual location to chart better. While the indie developer is not going to be a thing of the past, they will face increased and potential unstoppable competition.
For indie developers, there are several things that they can do on the front end of their app development to increase their chances of success. First, create a unique value proposition for your app that is timed right, well developed and not an after thought app being pushed to the market too early or incomplete simply to try to hit the lottery. Second, there is always the publishing option. If your app is a cut above the rest, you can potentially work a deal with the ever increasing app publishing houses that are popping up like pimples on a teenager. Although, you can expect to give up another 1/3 of your revenue, but 1/3 overall is better than no thirds. Third, seriously consider a marketing budget and strategy for your developed app using any and all free and low cost Guerrilla marketing tactics to gain awareness (social media, app community, forums, etc). Lastly, and very grass roots, indies need to start working together and quit thinking that their app idea is top secret or could not be better without collaboration. Try pooling your time and talents with others, graphically, creatively, etc. where each gets a percentage of the app revenue. This is a great model to realize reduced cost/loss and increased probability of success/revenue.
The iTunes App Store is turning corporate and has been from the beginning, which is only going to make it harder for the indie (little guy) to scrape out a big win, but don’t believe everything you read, even if it is from Venture Beat. If you’re looking for an indie friendly iPhone, iPad, Android, or Mac advertising option, be sure to check out CrazyMikesapps’ App Advertising for a quality custom app demo, social media marketing, and traditional web marketing — all for one low price. Also, tell us about your iOS app success story or fail — we would love to hear it. Is Venture Beat 100% Â on this one? Â Do you feel App Promo’s survey is legit? Tell us!